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Grinding to a halt
Author: TriSec    Date: 02/23/2013 14:04:17


Ah, Nero. Remind you of any Speaker of the House you might know?

March 1 is coming up awful quick, but the GOP and much of the House is still in recess.

Of course, they blame the President for what's about to happen, but the funny thing is this seems to be a purely congressional action....and Mr. Boehner himself is on record as stating he got "98 percent of what he wanted".

There will be real impacts to real people around the country if this happens. But let's take a brief look at what might happen around New England.

The sequester would trigger $85 billion in spending reductions over the final seven months of the federal fiscal year, split equally between defense and non-defense programs. Exemptions would include Social Security, Medicaid and Food Stamps, with Medicare absorbing a smaller percentage cut - 2 percent compared to 8 percent for the Pentagon.

The cuts would total nearly $1 trillion over the next decade.

"It's a blunt, meat-ax approach that cuts a percentage across the board," said Michael Collins, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, of the sequester. His institution is one of many in New England facing a loss of millions of dollars in medical research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The prospective defense cuts pose another major concern for the region. While states with larger military bases and defense installations may suffer more direct and immediate consequences from sequestration, New England is a hotbed for defense-related manufacturing and research by numerous private companies.

James Brett, president and chief executive of The New England Council, estimated that defense supports about 320,000 jobs in the region. A $300 million loss in funding, as one analysis suggests, would cost 3,300 jobs in just the first year of the sequester.

"That would be devastating for our region," said Brett, whose organization describes itself as a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and medical institutions that promotes economic growth in New England.

Several large military contractors, including Waltham, Mass.-based defense giant Raytheon Co., have already sliced revenue forecasts in anticipation of Pentagon spending reductions. But experts say the trickle-down effect could take an even more severe toll on smaller suppliers and research facilities.

"In New England ... defense contracting fuels innovation and education," said Joseph Donovan, a lobbyist who represents nearly a dozen New England companies or academic institutions that benefit directly or indirectly from defense or homeland security contracts.

While some entitlement programs are shielded from the automatic cuts, many other social services programs are not.

Federally-funded programs in Massachusetts that could take hits include heating assistance for low-income residents, for which the state is slated to receive $132.7 million in the current fiscal year, the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children ($50 million) and Community Development Block Grants ($27.7 million), according to Gov. Deval Patrick's administration.

The advocacy group Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants said more than 18,000 tenants could be dropped from federal rent subsidies.

Also subject to sequestration: The $50.5 billion Superstorm Sandy relief package recently approved by Congress.

"Nobody wins from sequestration, said Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor. "We are still hopeful that common sense will prevail."

But that's not all. Do you fly? Are you planning on flying anywhere anytime soon? You'll probably want to add a few extra hours to your travel time. Which might even include drive-time to your nearest major airport, if your regional tower gets shut down.

Washington (CNN) -- Upcoming forced government spending cuts will heavily impact the Federal Aviation Administration, triggering flight delays nationwide and control-tower closures at some small airports as soon as April, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday.

"Travelers should expect delays," LaHood told reporters in calling for fellow Republicans to work toward compromise to avert the worst impacts of $85 billion in across-the-board cuts set to take effect March 1.

The full impact won't be felt until April as furloughs and other staffing reductions of air traffic controllers come into effect, said LaHood, who has announced his intention to step down from President Barack Obama's Cabinet.
TSA cuts: Longer airport security lines The impact of forced budget cuts Lawmakers weigh in on forced budget cuts

"Flights to major cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco and others could experience delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours because we have fewer controllers on staff," LaHood said. "Delays in these major airports will ripple across the country."

In addition, control towers at smaller airports such as Boca Raton, Florida, and Joplin, Missouri, would be closed, he said.

Asked why he was brought to the White House briefing room to address reporters, he said: "I would describe my presence here with one word -- Republican."

"They're hoping that maybe I can influence members of my own party" to compromise with Obama and Democrats on an alternative to the mandatory spending cuts agreed to in a 2011 deal to increase the federal borrowing limit, LaHood said.

LaHood is a former member of the House of Representatives from Illinois.
In a letter to airline associations, the Defense Department and other "aviation colleagues" released on Friday, LaHood said plans under consideration to absorb the mandatory spending cuts included furloughs for most FAA workers, eliminating midnight shifts in 60 control towers and shutting down more than 100 towers at smaller airports.

The FAA operates towers at more than 400 airports nationwide.

It's not quite spring yet, but given the glacial pace of congressional action these days, think about spring break, and yes...even summer vacation. It's not going to be much fun if all our national treasures are closed.

FORT SUMTER NATIONAL MONUMENT, S.C. — The looming shutdown of the federal government includes the National Parks Service, which could mean events commemorating the start of the Civil War with a Confederate attack on Fort Sumter may have to happen without the fort itself.

A shutdown would also affect trips to the nation's capital, where the Smithsonian and the National Zoo would be among the first to close, and could cause spring break campers out West to find Yosemite and other parks closed.

If lawmakers can't reach agreement, the National Park Service ceases operations at midnight Friday, shuttering Fort Sumter in the middle of Charleston Harbor just days before events marking the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the war. The Union garrison on the island surrendered after a Confederate bombardment on April 12, 1861.

"It's a very special event and it would be very sad if something like that happened," said Chris Kimmel of Harrisburg, Pa., who visited the fort Wednesday as a chaperone with a group of high school students from another town tied to the war, Gettysburg, Pa.

Events for the anniversary have been planned for years. Hundreds of Union and Confederate re-enactors plan to stay in Forts Sumter and Moultrie, another Park Service site across the harbor, during a week of events.

If there is a shutdown, plans will move forward to re-enact the bombardment Tuesday with about 30 cannons ringing the harbor from sites not on federal land.

"I'm shocked. This is a pivotal event in the nation's history," said Jeff Antley, who is coordinating arrangements for an estimated 1,000 re-enactors coming to the city. "You can't say we're going to reschedule for May. The money has been spent. The uniforms have been bought. The travel arrangements have been made."

All of this doesn't even begin to address the downstream impacts. No matter where your paycheck comes from, you need to spend it on things that help fuel the economy, like food...gas...utilities...and even those "consumable" items that people often like to buy.

Travel is a whole sector in itself...there's a lot of secondary businesses around those airports that will suffer if travel is affected or reduced.

And it's only Cape Cod, but look around your area and see what other tourism-based neighborhoods are dependent on "the season" to stay afloat year-round. If this drags on into summer, an awful lot of folks are going to be hurting out there.

All because one man took his ball and went home. I don't think the President can make an end run this time with an Executive Order. But the GOP has held this Sword of Damocles above the country's head so many times....I think we should call their bluff and let it happen. Then perhaps that 'revolution' our gun-nut friends so fear might actually come to pass, but I bet it won't go the way they think it will.

6 comments (Latest Comment: 02/24/2013 07:31:27 by Raine)
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